Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Room for optomism - climate action in China

The rising emissions of carbon dioxide in China is one of the favourite excuses of those who would rather not act on climate change for not doing so. However, a look at what is actually happening in China and their future plans makes it clear they are taking climate change very seriously.

Obviously compared to Australia, China is in a different position with a rapidly developing economy and rising standards of living pushing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class.

Announcements in the last week or so have shown that China plans to:

- Introduce a feed-in tariff for solar power, which is likely to spur massive growth in solar PV generation.

- Set a cap on total energy use, which will help them in their plans to:

1) Improve energy efficiency
2) Set up a number of regional greenhouse gas emissions trading schemes.
3) Track of progress of indiviual provinces towards their emissions goals
4) Integrate regulatory policies such a greener building codes into a national policy.

China's overall goal is to decrease the "carbon intensity" of their economy by 40-45% by 2020. By carbon intensity they mean that a unit of economic active will produce ~40% less carbon emissions that it previously did. Even with these improvements China's emissions are going to continue to rise for the time being (however without serious action so will ours in Australia). What these actions aim to do is slow the emissions increases in China and stabilise them as quickly as possible, at which point they will likely still be considerably lower per person than here in Oz.

These actions in China, while helping them to continue to dominate the clean energy race, will also help to put them on a path to stabilising their carbon emissions. However, nothing promotes progress like progress and we in Australia, as one of the worlds top 20 largest economies and top 20 largest C02 emitters, have a responsibility to play our part by cutting our own emissions and then pushing China to do even more.

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